Whatever else is true in elections, likeability counts for something. It may be possible to find successful presidential candidates who were perceived as somewhat nasty or unkind, Richard Nixon comes to mind, but it’s rare. Voters like to like their leaders, even if it’s a grudging respect that becomes a sort of affection. It’s hard to vote for someone you’d rather not spend time with.
Cruz, 44, was a marvel in high school, a kid who memorized the Constitution and wowed audiences with his speaking skills. In college, he was a prodigy and a pest; the same people who avoided having dinner with him went out of their way to watch him debate. As a politician, the senator from Texas is what he’s always been – a lightning rod for controversy, a stickler for process, an evangelist for conservative principle, a constitutional wonk in ostrich-skin cowboy boots.
Those who find his newly announced presidential campaign thrilling and those who find the notion of Cruz in the White House disturbing agree that his devotion to principle reminds them of that of Barry Goldwater, the movement conservative and 1964 Republican presidential nominee who famously said “I’d rather be right than president” and got his wish.
There are a number of reasons Cruz won’t be president, won’t be his party’s nominee, but his smarminess, his holier-than-thou, I’m-smarter-than-everyone-else way of walking the planet won’t be an asset.
In the ’80s we liked to laugh at Ronald Reagan for what appeared to be a lack of basic intelligence, but few doubted his ability to connect with voters in a very personal way.
Ted Cruz seems like someone who would have gotten stuffed in a locker in high school, and that guy never gets to be president.